“It’s unfair.” “I don’t deserve this.” “I haven’t done anything wrong.” “Why me?”
Have you ever asked these questions or made these statements? Not long after we learn to speak as children, we learn to say “No fair!” as we observe the injustices (perceived or real) around us. We long for everything to be fair, for our needs to be considered and met, to be granted a life free of competition that diminishes us, and from the pain that wounds us. Even when we are in the midst of a good experience, we will often look over our shoulder to see someone who seems to be having a better experience, and wish for that instead of what we currently possess. With this sense of justice, fairness, and satisfaction ingrained in our humanity, we are forever attempting to define the parameters of what these things should mean.
What do you do when your sense of justice, fairness and satisfaction seem to be violated by God Himself? What do you do when your prayer is not being answered? What solution is there when you are not experiencing the good you feel you deserve in life, and there is no one to blame it on but God? Well, if you are anything like me, you might just put God on trial.
Judging God is done in the way you think and act. It takes a few steps. First, you have to believe that you know better than God what is needed in your situation. Next you will have to judge Him according to your present knowledge.
“How do you judge God?” you may be wondering.
You hold a mental trial, or a social one. One is done privately in your own mind, and the other is done in a group, or via internet interface. You would assess your situation and find all of the negatives, weaknesses, struggles, and frustrations. You would then seek to establish a timeline for the reversal of these negatives and place that responsibility on God. “I would like this all to change right now!” (for instance.) If this timeline you established is not honored, or if it feels ignored, you have grounds for judging God.
But how can God be punished?
You can choose to ignore God. Stop praying. Discontinue church attendance. Fill your time with ways to assuage your pain– like numbing through addictions, or escapes. Close your eyes to the people around you. Close your heart to the life happening all around you–reserving all of your affection and joy for the moment that your need is met, and your prayer is answered. Refuse to lift your head and give God thanks until He meets your demands. Do not acknowledge the goodness around you. Stop appreciating the air you breathe, the heart beating in your chest, and any beauty around you. Refuse to be amused at the budding of a flower, the laughter of a baby, the kindness of a smile, or the flavor of a meal. Do not open your heart to goodness until your demands are met.
Spend time finding alternative answers for the goodness you find around you in the midst of your pain. Take opinion polls on whether or not God even exists. Create new definitions of good and evil with your personal comfort at the center of the definition.
You can only begin to build your case if you make your experience the ultimate reality, and God the superficial one. When you measure God by your standard of goodness, and your parameters of justice, you will make a compelling case….for awhile.
You will be forced, however, to draw from all cases of human suffering and injustice to buoy your cause and prove that there could not be a good God if evil happens in the world. Your case will have to rest heavily on the value of humanity–children, innocents, poor and destitute. You will have to come up with a way to prove that people are valuable in some intrinsic way all the while denying a God who gave them that intrinsic worth. You will have to prove that your standard of goodness is the one that God is bound to, and you will have to forego the fact that you cannot see the end from the beginning but are willing to pass judgements anyways.
Yet, if you are less than a hundred years old, it is well-known that you could not have possibly established the parameters of goodness. Goodness had to be here before you or I arrived. The fact that you know there is such a thing as goodness, tells me that there is a God. The idea that God should do good comes from the sense inside of you that goodness is what God is and what He should be up to, and that sense did not originate with you since you are new to the planet.
Who then is the one being punished here? Isn’t it you? Isn’t it the one walled in by pride who cannot see the beauty around them or feel the warmth of friendship? Isn’t it you, the one who built a throne of judgement and sat yourself upon it indicting God for all that He has not done in regards to you who is struggling with addiction, anger, lonliness, and the desire to jettison the planet? Who is losing here?
How do you break free?
You will have to re-calibrate your thinking. Allowing God to set the parameters of reality, you can bring your needs to Him. Your pain, your fear, your loss, your frustration needs a good God. (And that is in fact what He is.) Maybe you have already discovered that there is nothing inside of you that can change your circumstances. At best you can numb yourself or distract yourself, but you cannot heal or redeem yourself.
When with thankfulness and wonder you open your eyes again to the beauty around you, and express it in worship to the One to whom it is due, when you acknowledge the kindness of strangers, the brilliance of creation, the devotion of love, the faithfulness of friendship, and the wonder of mystery, acknowledging the Source of it all, you begin to break free. When you look at God’s track record of goodness and faithfulness, and reminisce on the promises He has made and has already fulfilled, and when you acknowledge Him as the ultimate reality, you step down from the judgement throne and take your place at His feet in earnest expectation.
Because God is not a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19), and because every good and perfect thing comes from Him (James 1:17), you can be honest in your appreciation of all the good in your life that He has established. You can worship Him in gratitude for what He has given you. It is reasonable to trust Him for the things you don’t yet understand, because He has proven Himself faithful in the past. You can wait with expectation because He has promised that even if you do not see the fulness of the justice you are longing for right now, He has promised to set all things right and bring about ultimate justice not just for you, but for all that He has made.
Your evidence of God’s faithfulness and goodness will be the the only judgment of His character you can sustain. Step down from the place of judgment, and find yourself again at His feet in worship.
Photo credit: Bethany Morris